Tag Archives | Lahore

Urdunama: Dehshat gardi

Much has been written about on the recent episode where India Today and the Times of India published alerts from the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) on five Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operatives having infiltrated their way into Mumbai.  That same day, Pakistan’s TV channels and news media revealed, with barely-concealed delight, that these individuals were in fact in Lahore, not India, and that they were ordinary tradesmen, and not Lashkar terrorists.  On the face of it, our intelligence agencies goofed up.  Over at Acorn, my colleague Nitin Pai examines possible explanations in this excellent blogpost.

During a daily customary review of Pakistan’s Urdu media, I came across this article in Roznama Ummat that I found intriguing.  An excerpt from the Ummat’s interview of Mehtab Butt, Atif Butt and Babar Shabbir — three of the five who had allegedly entered Mumbai — follows:

The most concerning aspect of India labeling the three Pakistanis as terrorists is, how India came to be in the possession of their photographs in the first place.  In conversation with Ummat, Mehtab Butt indicated that he was perplexed as to how his photographs came to be in the hands of the Indians.  In response to a question about whether he had uploaded his photo onto Facebook, Twitter or similar social networking websites, Mr. Butt said that he had never operated a computer.  Mr. Butt said that the shirt that he was wearing as displayed in the photo on the Indian channel (sic) India Today was purchased last year.

Atif Butt said that while he had opened a Facebook account for himself, he had stopped using the account after his engagement;  however, he recollects having never uploaded the photo shown on the Indian channels to Facebook.  He remembers though, that the half-sleeved shirt displayed in the photo had been purchased last summer.

All three victims are of the opinion that a powerful camera was used to zoom in and take photos of them at Hafiz Center.  Both Atif and Mehtab were working at their shops at Hafiz Center when a mutual friend of theirs arrived at about 8:00pm on Wednesday with his laptop.  He showed Atif and Mehtab photos of themselves appearing on the India Today website.  At first, they dismissed the photos as a prank, but the grim reality of the situation ultimately dawned on them.

The three then promptly approached local police and advised them of the situation.  According to Mehtab and Atif, they took this step to ensure that they didn’t get apprehended on false charges.  Mehtab Butt informed Ummat that both he and Atif were under considerable stress.  Atif was of the opinion that had he and Mehtab not approached the police, there would be no doubt that the three victims would have been declared terrorists, similar to the “so-called” Mumbai terror attacks.

The three victims told Ummat that not only is India insulting our country, they have now turned their attention towards harming the Pakistani trading community.  Their question to Pakistan’s leaders is, why are we expanding our trade relations with India?  They appeal to the government to get to the bottom of this and respond to India’s imprudent actions. [روزنامہ امّت]

That this was an IO exercise against India is pretty apparent by the narrative.  Two innocent traders and an honest security guard in Lahore being ensnared by the Serpent Next Door triggers the imagination.  But why traders, why not anyone else?  The last paragraph appears to offer some clues.

There is disquiet in parts of Pakistan’s trading community over liberalizing trade with India.  Though many remain skeptical, most are not opposed to it, given the obvious benefits from trade with India.  But the one group that has remained steadfastly opposed to engagement with India on trade and the MFN status has been Difa-e-Pakistan, a rag-tag collection of ex-army officers and jihadi nutjobs supported by Rawalpindi, that boasts within its ranks a who’s who of the military-jihadi complex, including God’s Servant Hafiz Saeed, and the always-humble Hamid Gul.

Hard-line elements in Pakistan certainly have motive, by both impressing upon the Pakistani trading community that thy neighbor is deceitful, and embarrassing India and its intelligence agencies. But the elaborate plot does not appear to be commensurate with the benefits of getting Pakistan to abrogate from bilateral trade commitments with India. The juice wouldn’t be worth the squeeze.  This may very well be part of the plot, but is there a larger game afoot?

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Urdunama: Raymond Davis

It has surfaced that Raymond Davis, the U.S. citizen arrested in Lahore for killing two Pakistanis, is actually a CIA contractor who provided security to agency stations in Pakistan.  This will further complicate matters between the U.S. and Pakistan on the status of Mr. Davis.

The shrillness and rhetoric in Pakistan’s Urdu press, which has led a campaign for capital punishment for Mr. Davis since his capture, will only grow.  As an example, Roznama Ausaf’s February 22 editorial challenges the U.S. to make good on threats from some quarters in D.C. to withhold military and non-military aid to Pakistan if Mr. Davis is not released.  An excerpt of the editorial follows:

America will continue its “carrot and stick” policy with Pakistan.  It will try to bribe its way out of its current predicament.  But does it not realize that a country of 170 million people with one the finest armed forces in the world cannot be bought?  The U.S. will probably increase the amount of money it is willing to pay to seek the release of Raymond Davis.  Mr. Davis’ importance to the U.S is apparent given the lengths to which they are prepared to go to secure his release.  No doubt, he was part of a larger U.S. conspiracy against Pakistan.

The U.S. may also threaten to withdraw military and non-military aid to Pakistan.  However, if they do follow through on this threat, what do they think will happen to Pakistan’s military operations in FATA?  Does the U.S. realize what impact a Pakistani withdrawal from FATA will have on its war in Afghanistan?

This isn’t the first time that Pakistan would have had to face sanctions from the U.S.  Each time the U.S. has punished us with economic and military sanctions, Pakistan has responded — by becoming a nuclear power, by upgrading our missile technology, and by strengthening our armed forces.   Let the U.S. be under no illusions that once that “safety valve” that Pakistan has kept secure in the tribal regions is open, the U.S. will not be able to deal with the repercussions, even after spending another trillion dollars.

It is therefore advisable that the U.S. come clean about all its activities in Pakistan, ask for forgiveness, and allow Raymond Davis to suffer the consequences of his actions.   Times have changed. [روزنامہ اوصاف]

An approximate Hindi translation of Ausaf’s editorial can be accessed here (thanks @SundeepDougal).  Also follow my monthly review of Urdu and Arabic news media in Pragati.

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Hafiz Saeed under house arrest?

Is he is or is he ain’t?

Predictably,  in response to the Data Darbar attacks in Lahore, the government in Punjab made all the right noises about eradicating terrorism from the province.  Earlier, Interior Minister Rehman Malik traded barbs with Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif on his use of the term “Punjabi Taliban.”  The nomenclature did not sit well with the government in Punjab; the Taliban, they claimed, had no identity and references to Punjab hurt the sentiments of its residents.

Nonetheless, nominal steps were taken to curb extremism in the province.  A news report in the Jang elaborated:

The Punjab Home Department has “banned” 17 organizations; these include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan, Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed, Millat-e-Islamiya Pakistan, Islamiya Tehrik-e-Pakistan, Hizb-ul-Tehrir, Jamaat-ul-Ansar, Jamaat-ul-Furqan, Islamic Students Movement, Baluchistan Liberation Army and Jamaat ud-Dawwa.

This list does not include Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), despite statements made by Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, which indicate that the TTP and al-Qaeda have collaborated with Sipah-e-Sahiba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Punjab.According to the Home Department, there are approximately 4,000 individuals with relations to these terror groups.  These individuals have been placed under surveillance, per Section 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and they have been banned from carrying out such activities. [جنگ]

Almost equally predictably, an editorial in the Jang’s sister publication, The News, went soft when news broke, contrary to previous reports, that the Jamaat ud-Dawwa had not been banned.  The editorial reasons:

The JuD and other organizations may not be behind direct acts of militancy. It is also a fact that they are engaged in many good works that bring solace to many everywhere. Hindu women in Sindh have recently demonstrated in their favour. [The News]

So Hindu women from Sindh demonstrating in JuD’s favor is reason enough to absolve them of the massacre of several hundreds of civilians in the name of religion and state?  Something to keep in mind the next time someone gives you the old “we’re both victims of terror” spiel.  While these events unfold, the federal and state civilian administrations are anxious to demonstrate their capacity for action against terror groups.  PML (N) leader Nawaz Sharif called for a “national conference” on terrorism, which Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani has accepted.

But should it surprise anyone that Messrs. Gilani and Kayani are simply waiting for the storm to blow over?  Prior to this “national conference,” Mr. Gilani was busy ruling out military operations in South Punjab,  while Shahbaz Sharif went even further and denied the existence of the so-called “Punjabi Taliban.”

One wonders what the big purpose of this “national conference” is then.  Half the terror groups that should have been part of an offensive (including the TTP/ al-Qaeda affiliates and JuD) have already been given a clean chit and in any case, there’s not going to be any military action against the groups that did end up making it to the Punjab Home Department’s list of “banned” groups.

A month from now, everything will be forgotten and it will be business-as-usual.  Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

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Link Digest: July 3, 2010

Haqqani, Data Darbar, F-16s, Blackwater and the Narayanpur CRPF ambush.

Your weekly link digest:

  • Haqqani talks: The leaks are important but so is the leaker: Is Sirajuddin Haqqani in negotiations with Hamid Karzai?  Greg Carlstrom reviews.
  • Data Darbar — The target-in-waiting gets hit: Amil “Londonstani” Khan shares interesting perspectives on the July 1 Data Durbar shrine attack in Lahore.
  • F-16s debilitating conditionalities: Apparently, you can please some people none of the time.  Dr. Shireen Mazari is unhappy about the conditions-attached F-16s delivered to the Pakistani Air Force. Meanwhile, despite Sec. Robert Gates’ assurances to New Delhi, PAF’s Air Chief Rao Qamar Suleman unilaterally declared that his country was free to use these aircraft as it pleased (اردو).
  • Peace sacrificed in shrine attack: Syed Saleem Shahzad writes about the Data Darbar attacks, though the interesting bits of this article lie in last section of the article.  If accurate, it would mean that private defense contractors from the U.S. are attempting to establish operations in South Punjab.
  • Military power: key to India’s future: Bharat Verma highlights the challenges India faces as its profile on the global stage grows.
  • The Forest is Moving: Saikat Datta laments on the structural decay of the CRPF after yet another Maoist ambush resulted in 27 deaths in Narayanpur, Chhattisgarh.
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